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Rome Masters 2019 review: Nadal makes roaring comeback, Pliskova triumphs over Konta

ANALYST
Feature
20 May 2019, 14:21 IST

Rafael Nadal overcomes Novak Djokovic to win his 9th title at Rome
Rafael Nadal overcomes Novak Djokovic to win his 9th title at Rome

Rafael Nadal, the 17-time Grand Slam champion and the ‘King of Clay’, successfully defended his title at Foro Italico in Rome. Normalcy has been restored with the Spaniard finally winning his first title of this year’s clay season.

If anyone ever had any doubts over Nadal’s form following his triple claycourt semifinal losses, his scintillating display all week in the Italian capital would certainly serve as a strong statement before the French Open gets underway next week.

In a dominant display of vintage tennis, giving us an impression of his old self, Nadal breezed past Novak Djokovic on Centre Court in the final in two hours, 25 minutes to record his 9th Italian Open title. In the process, the Spaniard edged past the World No. 1 to claim a record-breaking 34th Masters 1000 title.

In what was an incredible show of remarkable tennis throughout the week in Rome, Nadal served a bagel to four of his five opponents en route the title and one of those opponents was none other than the runner-up Djokovic.

The Spaniard's ruthless and relentless performances this week have once again established him as the favourite to lift the Roland Garros title.

Novak Djokovic appeared exhausted in the final at Rome
Novak Djokovic appeared exhausted in the final at Rome

However, while Djokovic lost the final against the ‘King of Clay’, he showed glimpses of his tremendous resilience when he overcame stern tests from the Argentine duo of Juan Martin del Potro and Diego Schwartzman in his journey towards the summit clash.

After his triumph in Madrid last week and this run in Rome, the Serb appears to have got his mojo back. He has regained the momentum that he had lost during the spring hardcourt tournaments in North America in the wake of his Australian Open triumph.

Roger Federer, who made a last minute decision to play in the Italian capital, unfortunately had to pull out of his quarter-final clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas owing to a right leg injury. But he is probably feeling good about his game after he saved match points to defeat Borna Coric in the third round.

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In what could be termed as the biggest upset of the week in the men’s draw, the Barcelona Open champion Dominic Thiem was stunned by Fernando Verdasco in three sets in their Round of 32 clash. On the other hand, the Argentine Del Potro, who made a comeback at Madrid following an injury lay-off, showed signs of steady progress at Rome by reaching the last 8.

Karolina Pliskova triumphs in Rome
Karolina Pliskova triumphs in Rome

On the women’s side of the draw, Karolina Pliskova won her biggest clay title of her career so far as she triumphed over Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-3, 6-4 in the final.

On the other hand, the defending champion Elina Svitolina and other top seeds Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova failed to create any impression as they faced early exits. And just as the Swiss maestro pulled out at the quarter-final stage, a thumb injury forced women’s No. 1 Naomi Osaka to retire before her quarter-final clash.

Nadal’s victory in Rome, which also ends his title drought in 2019, has certainly brought life back to the ongoing clay season. Had he lost to Djokovic in the final, it would have put the latter in the ascendancy as the top favourite to win at Roland Garros, ahead of the Spaniard. However, Nadal’s jaw-dropping triumph has now put an end to that debate.

The phenomenal title defense in Rome might just act as the turning point for Nadal - not only for the upcoming French Open, but also for the rest of the year to follow.

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